Little fingers tapped away at computer keys after school at Hamilton Central School (HCS) on a recent sunny afternoon, but instead of manipulating blocks in Minecraft or posting to Facebook, they were busy writing computer code.
The afternoon coding class for students in grades three through five is the creation of Colgate’s Women in Computer Science club, whose members decided to share the skills learned in their college classrooms with the eager elementary school students.
Samantha Braver ’18, a computer science and art and art history major from Gladwyne, Pa., looked over the shoulder of one student who had a furrowed brow. The student was trying to figure out how to fix a string of code that would finish a puzzle and form a picture of a house. Braver gently suggested the student consider moving one part of the code as an experiment to see how it would respond.
“See, now that went too far,” Braver said of the line that stretched past the foundation of the cartoon house. The student smiled after making another minor adjustment herself, completing the puzzle.
“I have really loved tutoring the kids and seeing so many girls in the club,” Braver said. “I have been impressed with how quickly the students have moved through the lessons, and I hope we make a difference and inspire them to explore computer science more in a time when the number of unfilled tech jobs continues to grow. Club members who teach can hopefully be role models for the students.”
While the idea is local, the long-term implications are large, as technology companies nationwide search for more women with computer science backgrounds to balance a workforce that is still largely comprised of men.
“We are using a lesson plan from Code.org, which has fun, free computer games, puzzles, and mazes that are integrated with coding concepts,” said Colgate Jesse O’Loughlin ’18, a math and computer science double major from of Medfield, Mass. “I am excited to say that about 25 students signed up for the club.”
HCS Elementary Principal Kevin Ellis said the new coding club is another example of the positive impact Colgate has had on students in the school. There are currently six active after-school groups with Colgate students volunteering their time and expertise.
“HCS is currently making plans to offer our middle school and high school students computer science and coding classes in the near future. It is our hope that this coding club will be an impetus for elementary students to gain interest in this area,” said Ellis. “Providing students with 21st century, authentic learning experiences is a mission of HCS, as we prepare students for college and careers. This after-school club will directly assist us in this quest.”